Maimonides’ Grand Epistle to the Scholars of Lunel: Ideology and Rhetoric

Maimonides’ Grand Epistle to the Scholars of Lunel: Ideology and Rhetoric

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Charles H. Sheer

ISBN: 9781618119605 (hardcover) / 9781618119612 (paper)
Pages: approx. 100 pp.; 1 illus.
Publication Date: April 2019

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When Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah (Code of Jewish Law) reached Lunel, France, a group of scholars composed twenty-four objections to his positions. Surprisingly, Maimonides’ rejoinder opened with an unusual rhymed prose epistle with effusive praise for his correspondents and artistic and complex language. In this book, Charles Sheer offers the first annotated translation of the entire epistle: he uncovers the biblical and midrashic passages modified by Maimonides that became the language of his Iggeret, and explicates its ideas in the context of Maimonides’ other works and compositions of the late Middle Ages.  He illustrates how Maimonides, in a most personal fashion, shared with these scholars his ideological struggle between his love for Torah study and “hokhmah” (philosophy, wisdom).  This Grand Epistle reveals much about this towering figure and provides a moving portrait of him during his last decade.


Rabbi Charles Sheer is Staff Chaplain at Westchester Medical Center, and on faculty of the Bioethics Institute, New York Medical College. For 34 years he was campus rabbi at Columbia University and Barnard College. His M.A. in Talmudic Literature is from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and his Ordination from Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. Publications include “Bikkur Holim: The Origin of Jewish Pastoral Care” and “Torah u-Madda and the Brain Death Debate,” in Halachic Realities; Collected Essays on Brain Death (Maggid Books, 2015).


Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction
Maimonides and the Lunel Scholars                                                             
The Correspondence between Maimonides and French Scholars

1) Maimonides’ Grand Iggeret to R. Jonathan of Lunel                                 
2) The First Half of the Iggeret in Rhymed Prose                                         
3) Maimonides’ Unanticipated and Problematic Style Reversal                   
4) Maimonides’ Letter to Judge Anatoli                                                                   
5) The Letters from R. Jonathan of Lunel                                                                 
6) The Second Half of the Iggeret in Unadorned Prose                                  
7) Maimonides and the Lunel Scholars—Reconsidered                                                       

Appendix
Endnotes